8 Reasons Why I Love To Travel To The Philippines (& You Would To!)
The Philippines has been the country that I have traveled to most often since I was younger. For those of you who don't know, I'm a Filipina but I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. I’ve traveled back to The Philippines for many different reasons and flown on my own, with friends and with family. I feel proud and privileged to call such a beautiful country my second home and so I wanted to share with you 8 reasons why I love to travel to the Philippines… and I'm sure you would to!
1. THE COST OF LIVING
It's no secret that living in a destination in South East Asia is cheap, but compared to Bali and Thailand, you can get a lot more bang for your buck in The Philippines. The first time I ever visited Bali (which was quite late as it's seen as many Australians travel there, all the time!) I actually thought it was expensive. Yes, compared to Australia it's cheap but I was surprised as to how much a meal, massage or mani cost compared to The Philippines. I loved it, nonetheless - I made some wonderful friends and memories that will last a lifetime and have been there more than once but I can definitely say your money will last you a lot longer in The Philippines. For conversion, anything lower than 35 pesos for your AU$1 is not that great, 35-40 pesos for your AU$1 is pretty good and if you're receiving more than 40 pesos for your AU$1 then things are looking up!
2. THE FOOD
One thing is for sure, if you go to a Filipino party you better be prepared for a feast, even if you're not hungry! Filipinos are known for being extremely hospitable and generous, especially when it comes to food. The cuisine embraces all the common elements of Asian cuisine; sweet, salty, spicy and sour. You know that it's a special occasion when there's a lechon (spit-roasted pork), and it's most delicious when dipped in Mang Tomas sauce. Street food is always that type of food I love to try when traveling and Filipino street food will not disappoint. You must try their barbecue - marinated pork skewered and grilled on charcoal, toron - sliced banana and jackfruit dusted in brown sugar, rolled in a spring roll wrapper and fried, fish balls - finely pulverised fish meats and deep fried, taho - a soybean snack with sweet syrup and tapioca pearls and crispy pata - deep fried pig trotter or knuckles served with a soy-vinegar dip. Then there's dessert, I love leche flan - crème caramel, ube icecream, kuchinta with coconut sprinkles and the most popular is halo-halo (from Tagalog word halò, "mix") a colourful mixture of shaved ice, evaporated milk and a variety of boiled sweet beans and fruits you select and mix. Yum!
There is an abundance of places to shop - for any occasion and any price point. In Manila, the capital city alone you'll find plenty of SM Malls around for retail therapy and all your living essentials, mid to high end fashion in malls like Greenbelt (my personal favourite) and Rockwell, the largest mall in the Philippines with an ice rink at Mall Of Asia (MOA), up and coming designers at Trinoma and markets like Green Hills and Divisoria where you'll find loads of knick knacks, fashion, accessories, shoes and gadgets.
4. IT'S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES
It’s the tagline and now social media hashtag for The Philippines, just watch this and I'm sure you'll agree:
5. TROPICAL ISLANDS & BEACH CULTURE
If you’re anything like me and love an island escape with clear blue waters and white sand then you'll love The Philippines - there are over 7,107 islands and you can choose from black, brown, grey, white and even pink sand! Boracay, just south of Manila is definitely the most popular. It's known as an island paradise with its powder white sand, crystal turquoise water and tropical palms. There's plenty of activities to keep you busy - jet skiing, massages by the beach, quad biking, shopping, parasailing and an active night scene with lots of bars and clubs selling cheap alcohol. For a more serene island there's Palawan, ranked as number one in the world's best island awards for 2013. I can't wait to head there on my trip - I'll definitely report back with a travel diary!
6. LANGUAGE & COMMUNICATION
The Spanish colonization in The Philippines lasted for over 300 years, so if you speak Spanish you’ll find plenty of familiar words in the language. I’m not the best at speaking Tagalog but it’s totally fine because Filipinos aren’t foreign to english anyway - over 90% of the population speak English. In fact, The Philippines was named the world's best country in business English proficiency, even beating the United States. So it’s not that difficult to communicate or ask for directions if you’re lost. It’s no wonder why most businesses are picking up and moving work, particularly call centres to The Philippines.
7. GETTING PAMPERED
Because you get great value for your money, getting pampered doesn’t burn a hole in your wallet. There are spas and massage places all over the country - from the malls to the beaches. You can get quality mani’s and pedi’s for around 200 pesos (around AU$5) and full body 1 hour massages for around 300-350 pesos (around AU$8). There’s even a 24/7 Spa called Wensha that offers invigorating and relaxing services with an all you can eat buffet!And last but certainly not least...
8. THE PEOPLE
The Philippines is filled with humble, happy go-lucky people. They’re happy for what they have and just like India, visiting here - especially if you go away from the city and visit a less fortunate province - really teaches you a lot about appreciation and realising how fortunate you are. When I go back and visit family from my mums side it’s always so lively even though they live in the smallest house. When you visit the markets, unlike other Asian countries, bargaining isn’t about being so aggressive but more about being super friendly and joking around with the seller. They always go above and beyond to provide you with the best customer service.No matter how little they have, and despite all the devastating and heart-breaking news with Typhoon Haiyan recently, Filipinos still find reasons to smile, make jokes and have a laugh.I'm looking forward to going back and not only spending time exploring this beautiful country but also helping out in ways that I physically can for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Every helping hand and every donation counts, to find out how you can help please visit here.So if you're still undecided on where to travel to these holidays - book a ticket to The Philippines. If you're looking for accomodation? Try Agoda, there's plenty of nice and conveniently located hotels that are super cheap. And when you do explore what this country has to offer, tell me stories and show me pictures. I would love to hear what you love most about traveling to The Philippines!Read more: Postcards from Palawan / Philippines Video DiaryAll Photos (except for the food): Aubrey Daquinag for The Love Assembly